CAIRO, March 26 (Xinhua) — Raging battles and airstrikes have helped the Syrian army recapture Palmyra taken by the Islamic State (IS) for the past 10 months.
As the notorious terrorist group withdrew, the Syrian government forces entered the millennia-old city on Friday, after a broad offensive launched two days ago.
On Wednesday, the Syrian forces had approached the outskirts of Palmyra, only 850 km away, following days of intense battles in eastern countryside of the central province of Homs.
Following “qualitative” battles against the IS in the vicinity of Palmyra, the city has become encircled, Syria’s state-run TV reported.
The battles burst out at the southern and southwestern outskirts of Palmyra between the Syrian forces and the IS militants.
Due to the geographical nature of the Syrian desert, the army adopted special tactics, such as camouflaged armored vehicles and motorcycles under the air cover of the Russian air force, the TV said.
Russian helicopters targeted the armored vehicles of the IS, while the Syrian army heavily shelled the IS positions inside Palmyra, which forced the terror militants to start moving their families toward the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, much of which under the IS control.
The operation came just a day after the Syrian forces captured all hills and highlands surrounding Palmyra.
It secured the Syrian army’s path to the western entrance of Palmyra.
On Thursday, the army started entering the northern district of Palmyra, after bomb squads dismantled mines and explosive devices planted by the IS.
The Syrian army reached the city entrance, just hours after seizing the nearby al-Hayaleh mountain, said the TV, adding that the infantry forces stormed IS fortifications there.
On Friday, the IS militants withdrew from the ancient citadel of Palmyra, where they raised their flag after overrunning the city last May, state news agency SANA reported.
The militants retreat from the citadel toward the al-Amiriyeh district in the oasis city, after trying to bring in reinforcements from its strongholds in the northern province of al-Raqqa, but the Syrian army punched the backup forces of the IS.
The citadel was then fully captured by the army, backed by Russian air campaign and Shiite fighters, including those with Hezbollah.
The Syrian forces combed the areas between the hills and the citadel, and cut off the IS supply line between Palmyra and the town of Qaryatain in Homs countryside.
Later on Friday, the Syrian military forces captured the airbase of Palmyra in a blitz offensive.
Located in central Syria, Palmyra displays the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.
The IS group had occupied Palmyra since last May, and destroyed the city’s military prison and several Islamic tombs.
It also carried out public executions of soldiers and people accused of working for the government.
Syria has many prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic heritages. Before the crisis, Syria had attracted many multinational archaeological missions coming for searching new clues of historical facts on the development of civilizations.